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Still working on that hot first release.



However, in Swann’s songs, the only traces of Proust’s style are to be found in whiffs of the most acrid of scents and in her poisonous precision. Indeed, her own madeleines tend to be more banana-flavoured, of the kind the Velvet chose as artwork for their iconic record, which she discovered – amongst other “poisons” – in the collection of her music-loving parents at far too young an age to be exposed to such irreversible radiation.

And thus, at the tender age of 23, she can already boast the voice of a femme fatale, somewhere between Nico and Lou Reed, weathered by the thousand and one lives she has yet to live and imbued with the gracious melancholy of blues-getting cowgirls and the sensuous sombreness of a Patti, Amy or Cat Power. But above all, and right from this very first album, it is clear that Chloé (her real name) belongs to that very select league of provocative and electrifying female artists.

Her pearly grey eyes, good-girl fringe and shy facade combined with her mastery of classical guitar, the piano and harmonium could have condemned her to a life of polite and prudish folk-music mimicking, like dozens of flavourless and interchangeable artists today.

Instead, she followed a very different kind of path. A rougher, more passionate one, it must be said, but one that lays full claim to the bewitching vibrations of early folk and country. And it was actually in a slightly haunted studio in Wales that, for the very first time, she tested her songs against the more intricate embellishments of rock and pop.

She had, until then, scoured the club scene, up and down England mainly, where she lived for a few months to hone her English, which today sounds unbelievably smooth and natural.

It wasn’t long before this songwriter – a career that she embarked upon at the tender age of eleven – was spotted.

First by Stephen Munson, the English musician who greatly boosted her knowledge of all the different types of musical vocabulary.

Then by Mocke Depret, Holden’s genius guitarist, who helped her songs mature into their present form.

And by label Atmosphériques, finally, who introduced her to Rob Ellis, her future album producer. This respected musical craftsman’s track record includes taming the infamous free spirits PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi. This he achieved without actually trying to domesticate them but instead by stimulating their temperaments of ash and crystal, fire and ice.

Here too, it is this magical mixture that takes the proudly beautiful songs of Neverending to another level. Recorded live in the studio to steer clear of the chloroform of over-produced music, the album does however make the most of these incredibly meticulous, quintessentially English arrangements. In fact, one of the most discreetly brilliant British musicians of his generation, former Coral member Bill Ryder Jones, was so knocked out by her performance that he agreed to feature on Poem #1 and Love You Tonite, two of the wonderful tracks that make Neverending so radiant.

From a nod to Bowie entitled Ziggy to the very Patti-Smith flavours of Show Me Your Love, from an orthographic celebration of Syd Barret called It don’t Rymes to the melancholy-laced ballads (My darling) she learned from the brilliant Townes Van Zandt, Swann demonstrates her power to turn her vast musical knowledge into a highly personal mode of expression, never weighed down by too many quotations. Emulating her heroes, she sings about the fear of things ending and the hope of new beginnings with just the right intensity and a certain degree of restrained fervour. Neverending already sounds like the standard-setting record from a seasoned songstress. It’s when you realise a perfect song like Hold Me Close was written when she was only 14 that it really hits you. Proust was right: young girls in flower are never too far from the stinging nettles.